The soft vocals and lofi instrumentals of “Kenny” by Still Woozy play faintly from the small speakers of the Writing Center. Alexander Eustace leans back to a table behind a backdrop of hanging plants and a whiteboard covered in doodles of mushrooms. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows while he looks over a student’s Shakespeare assignment. In perfect Shakepearian English he recites four lines on the screen and helps the student work through their question, but not before cracking one or two jokes about the “demonic entities haunting the lights” to his partner-in-crime of the center, Jacob Baver.
To be honest, I don’t know much about Alexander Eustace – one of the newest additions to the ORHS staff. In fact, I didn’t know anything about him at all before I walked into the Writing Center to interview him. But I already have a feeling that what I’m seeing is the perfect picture of him: a young teacher who’s confident in his environment, who’s comfortable with his students, and who has a wry sense of humor indicative of his own time as a student at ORHS.
Alexander Eustace graduated from Oyster River in 2014, long ago when the junior core still existed and when about half the number of students roamed the halls. He was, as he puts it, not the “best student,” spending more time making jokes than he would getting his work done. English Teacher Marjke Yatsevitch, who had Eustace in her Poetry and Fiction class, described him as a student who didn’t always take himself seriously but one who had the ability to maintain a “pleasant repartee” with herself and the other teachers.
I’ve quickly learned that finding the irony in a situation or engaging in any form of witty banter, as Yatsevitch suggests, is Eustace’s strong suit. When I asked Eustace which teacher would be good to talk to so I could learn more about him, he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, seemingly taking a moment to consider the question, before saying, “Ms. Y. She will inevitably accuse me of doing bad things.”
As it turns out, that wasn’t completely untrue. Ms. Y recalls times when Eustace would purposely sit close to her desk to bug her, or times when he threw tiny pieces of paper at her head when she wasn’t looking (although she didn’t know about that until years later).
Eustace wasn’t just a bit of a class clown, though. He was also none other than the host of ORTV. This was news to me when I found out, and I was definitely more eager than him to hash out the details.
“There’s a lot of footage of me out on the internet doing some incredibly embarrassing things including jumping out of trash cans,” he told me with a bit of reluctance. He also said that a deep dive through the internet would be required to find these ancient archived ORTV episodes. Maybe that was to throw me off the scent or discourage me from even looking at all, but unfortunatly for him it really only took one google search to find the videos featuring Eustace.
I might encourage others to do the same google search if you’re looking for some entertainment. Each episode includes an intro showing him skipping through the halls with his fellow ORTV members, while the rest of the video is peppered with cheeky comments or clips of Eustace lying on top of the lockers in the senior core, face in his hands, and legs kicking while he transitions viewers to the next segment. If you don’t want to go through all the effort of watching the episodes though, Eustace’s ORTV bio pretty much sums up what he’s like: “Alex Eustace is pleased to be the host of ORTV. He attended Julliard (juvenile corrections facility) and has been recommended by numerous experts to pursue something creative. His interests include collecting candles, bird watching, and singing slave spirituals.”
Flash forward to 2022, and Eustace is back in the building to teach classes in the English and Theater departments. As a fourth quarter senior just itching to walk across that stage at graduation and be on my merry way, I couldn’t help but wonder, why would anyone want to come back here for an extended period of time? Eustace explains that, “everyone kind of hates their high school and they’re like ‘oh, this place sucks or whatever,’ but then you realize, especially if you’re teaching in other schools, that it was actually pretty great and there is a lot you can learn from there.”
It does seem like Eustace is now making the most of his time here, especially as he works toward keeping the theater program up and running. He was the theater director of the fall play Rumors and also helped the cast while they prepped for the spring production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Allison Howland (‘22), a student who starred in both the fall play and spring musical (and yet another person that Eustace said would probably say bad things about him), explains what it has been like to work with him: “Mr. Eustace is the embodiment of a theater kid. He definitely loves attention, and that’s definitely why he does a lot of things he does. It’s why I do it, so I can’t blame him for that.”
What it truly means to live life as a theater kid, I’m not entirely sure, but Eustace must be using it to his advantage. Howland explained how he is a lot more approachable than other teachers, and it’s likely why he was able to attract a larger crowd to the theater program this year compared to other years when fewer than ten people auditioned. Howland also mentioned how his effort to create a nice set design and good costumes also went a long way with the cast.
Aside from his approachable personality, the simple fact that Eustace can relate to students at Oyster River as a young teacher has increased his likeability. Brenden Barry (‘22) a student who has Eustace for Acting I and Expository Writing says that he, along with Mr. Baver, “are like a very strong middle ground between students and teachers because, although they are teachers, they still went here and can relate to us. They’re like friends and they’re like teachers, which I think is a great thing.”
This connection has helped Eustace create classes focused on what students here actually value. That is, he knows that a lot of kids enjoy activities that are student-led and classes more focused on effort rather than grades. “He lets students have their opinion and have a good time in class as long as they’re getting work done, because that’s what he cares about,” says Barry. He also notes that he isn’t super strict with assignments and his late policies “are a godsend.”
As I’ve said, I’ve never actually had Eustace as a teacher, but watching him help studentst in the Writing Center, I can tell that he is able to make connections and get them to actually enjoy their time in the school.
It seems as if the Alexander Eustace who teaches at the school now is not much different than the Alexander Eustace who was throwing papers at Ms. Y or hosting eccentric ORTV episodes eight years ago. He’s simply a bit older and a bit wiser. I guess this is good news to those of us who worry about our future or our life after high school. It is always helpful to know that even if you enjoy spending your time in trash cans or bird-watching, you can still land on your feet, and have teenagers enjoy your company.